By delaying actions, we risk winter’s onset

  By Rev. Dale Turner Nov 13, 1999
Seattle Times columnist

  The Bible is our eternal contempo­rary. It is always up to date. There are human inter­est stories in its pages that have their counterparts in each succeed­ing generation   stories that capture the imagination.
  One such story relates to the Apostle Paul. While he was in prison in Rome, awaiting execution, he wrote a letter to his spiritual son, Timothy   a leader in the church in far off Ephesus.

  Paul wanted Timothy to pick up his books that he had left in Troas and bring them to him. But most of all, he was eager to have Timothy with him. Physical presence is precious. "Do your best," Paul wrote, "to come quickly. Come before winter."

  We do not know how Timothy responded to Paul's letter. It would be good to believe that he did not wait a single day to leave Ephesus, but started at once for Troas and then continued the long journey to Rome to encourage Paul in his last days: to read to him, write letters for him and finally, to walk with him to the place of his execution.

  We have no record that Timothy arrived in Rome before winter. We hope that he did.

  But suppose that when he received the letter from Paul, he had said to himself, "Yes, I shall have to start soon for Rome. But first I must clear up some matters in Ephesus and go down to Miletus to ordain those elders, and over to Colossae to celebrate communion."

  Suppose, after he had finished what he thought he must do, he had started on his journey.

  Once in Troas, he would have inquired for a ship to carry him to Macedonia and on to Italy, or perhaps one that might be sailing around Greece into the Mediterra­nean.

  But suppose he had delayed too long and was told that the season for navigation was over and no vessels would sail until spring.

  We can imagine Timothy's re­proach of himself all through that anxious winter. When the first vessel sailed in the spring, Timothy would have been on it. We can see him landing in Neapolis, perhaps, and traveling up the Appian Way to Rome, arriving at Paul's prison only to be cursed and repulsed by the guard there. He would then hurry to

  We can hear one of them ask, "Are you Timothy? Don't you know that Paul was beheaded in Decem­ber? Hadn't you heard? Every time the jailer put the key in the door of his cell, Paul thought you were coming."

  His last message was for you. "Give my love to Timothy, my beloved son in the Lord," he said. "Tell him I love him and encourage him to keep the faith."

  This is not ancient history. It is a reminder that life has its priorities its decisive moments.

  There are doors of opportunity open today that will be closed tomorrow, perhaps never to be open again. There are flexibilities that quickly harden into firm realities.

  The human personality under­goes strange fluxes. Sometimes we are sensitive, malleable and teach­able. At other times, we are hard, resistant and deaf to the voice of reason.

  There are crisis points in our lives, just as there are critical temperatures in the molding of metal when it is neither too hard nor too fluid to be shaped at will.

  Character can be amended and improved, but not just any time. There are favorable times when God calls to commitment. Capture the moment. Jesus did not say tomorrow, but today.

  There are those who postpone religious training for their children as though religion were a window that could be put in long after the building is under way.

  Children are regimented in the clothing they wear, the food they eat, the time they study, practice music or go to bed. But often their curiosity about things religious is left unattended.

  The soul, like the soil, has its lessons for planting and reaping. "Come now   come before win­ter."

  Before winter or never! There are things that will never be done unless they are done before winter. Winter will come and pass and the flowers of spring will cover the breast of the Earth and the groves of missed opportunities.

  It is the realization that winter will come that injects urgency into all human relationships. Voices still speaking today will be silent tomor­row. How often have we exclaimed , "What! He is dead? I just saw him weeding his garden a few days ago as I drove by."

  Perhaps there was something we wanted to say to him. Or maybe we just wanted to shake his hand or comment on the beauty of the flowers in his garden. But the unexpected has mocked our good intentions.

  Yes, the Apostle Paul calls us all. “Come now. Come before winter.”